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August 28, 2010

Katrina + 5 and Racial Violence: Like the Picture Wasn’t There the Whole Time?

“I came out of Katrina with one perspective on it. And there isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t talk to someone who survived it who gives me a different perspective than I had before.”

– Russel L. Honoré, the retired lieutenant general in charge of relief effort. From: Rumor to Fact in Tales of Post-Katrina Violence (NYT)

“Give credence”? A “different perspective”?

I’m not sure why this photo made the print edition (5 columns wide) and not but it doesn’t need much analysis.  As a historical photo of the Katrina aftermath, the photo not only reinforces how blacks were hunted down and dominated by the New Orleans police but it elaborates the atmosphere in which African-American’s were stalked and killed by paranoid whites in the “better off” neighborhoods.

What’s most notable throughout the Times article, though, in marked contrast to this (print edition) photo, is the emphasis on what happened as uncommon knowledge — uncommon, that is, to the white corporate media and the military establishment that created a narrative of siege then waged war on the: “poor blacks and looters … murdering innocents and terrorizing whoever crossed their path in the dark, unprotected city.”

If we’re going to really look back at Katrina beyond just a reflexive anniversary exercise, then let’s be willing to examine not just what took place at the time, but also the lens we choosr to look through today. Writes The Times (bold mine):

Today, a clearer picture is emerging, and it is an … ugly one, including white vigilante violence, police killings, official cover-ups and a suffering population far more brutalized than many were willing to believe.

If this article is significant, it’s not for offering this powerful photo and putting the taste of the state’s racism in our mouths, as much as it is for the article’s defense of the military, the naive tone and the overemphasis on the mysterious ambiguity surrounding the racism, and the acknowledgment it took outfits like the local Times-Picayune newspaper and the non-profit ProPublica to set the record straight.

The photo, by Alex Brandon for the Times-Picayune, was taken on September 4, 2005.  The NYT caption reads: Lance Madison being arrested on Sept. 4, 2005, after a police shooting in New ORleans that killed two people, including Mr. Madison’s brother, Ronald.

  • Wayne Dickson

    For a good example, you might check Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! interview with Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun, plus Dave Eggers, who has just published a book about their experience. Unlike the man in this photo, Zeitoun, as he is known, was arrested in his own home.

  • davidb

    Our founding fathers – before the word “fascist” was coined – used the word “tyranny” to express their horror and contempt for this type of situation.

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  • Riggsveda

    I was in New Orleans with the Red Cross in October 2005, part of the first “kitchen” to be allowed to enter with ERVs to feed the neighborhoods. The first thing I heard on my first night in the shelter in Kenner were reports from fellow volunteers about how the NOLA cops were targeting and beating us whenever they caught us out in the city (Red Cross wasn’t officially supposed to be in the city at that time). But we had people who were OF the city, who volunteered just to be able to get back in to their home ground and help however they could. The attacks even made the local news…I saw one on the little TV we had set up in the gymnasium that served as our shelter. Nice way to greet the people who were trying to help, eh? With time I discovered that much of the NOLA force was rotted from the heart out, and they were as much criminals as the people they alleged to be fighting.

  • Kathryn in MA

    The storyboard for the whole calamity was pre-written (in MSM DNA) that blacks are uncivilized and armed force will be needed to quell an out of control situation. It was this fear that held up supplies to the Superbowl; there wasn’t armed forces there to protect the relief convoys. The military viewpoint. God Bless the Colonel who told the ‘entering force’ that they should drop their guns.

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